Scottish Transport Review 65 – May 2023

At a time when public finances are under more pressure than for many years, could decarbonisation goals lead to a new wave of investment in Scotland’s railway, and would further devolution of railway investment support better integration? John Yellowlees and Jonathan Bray explore the issues on Pages 2-6 of STR65.

The 2023 refresh of PAS2080, the standard for managing carbon in transport infrastructure and services, requires transparent approaches to carbon measurement throughout the supply chain to identify how to achieve net-zero emissions. Is Scotland on track to comply (Pages 7-8 of STR 65)?

Opponents of carbon credits suggest that they give organisations a ‘license to pollute’ but new research suggests that the reverse is the case and well managed voluntary carbon offsetting is associated with organisations which also reduce their emissions. Could progress with emissions reduction be accelerated by hard wiring carbon budgets into the transport economy as offsets (Pages 9-10 of STR65)?

Micro-mobility is growing rapidly and the International Transport Forum at the OECD has suggested how performance metrics can be used to ensure these new mobilities are inclusive and contribute to transport policy goals. If Scotland continues to lag other countries in managing the inevitable roll out of these new transport options then will this lack of leadership lead to negative reactive responses such as calls to ban e-scooters (Pages 12-14)?

The Welsh Government is consulting on changes to taxi and private hire legislation to reflect the rise of flexible public transport. The latest Scottish Transport statistics suggest there are now more flexible public transport trips than rail, bus, tram, metro and ferry combined, but the data lacks the detail needed to understand the growth. Is Scotland falling behind in the regulation of this growing sector (Pages 15-16)?

The Freedom of Information Scotland Act was intended to increase transparency and accountability in public service delivery but in some cases is being cited as a reason why public bodies choose not to keep proper records of decisions. Katy Clarke MSP has suggested a comprehensive route map for reform of the FOISA but will transparency and accountability for transport investment be delivered by the proposals in the current Scottish Government consultation (Page 11)?

The population census each decade has anchored our understanding of transport change, but how can Scotland’s 2022 census results be used, given data collection problems, the effects of the pandemic and the rise of new ways of travelling? The Office for Statistics Regulation is requiring a narrative on how the 2022 Scottish census data can be used appropriately before the results can be published as National Statistics so what does this mean for transport planning and analysis (Pages 16-17)?

At a time when some top down political visions of transport change are collapsing under the weight of a cost of living crisis and the rise of artificial intelligence, a common complaint amongst transport authorities and operators is that they need more power. Derek Halden discusses how the power to fuel future investment is built within communities (Pages 18-19). However will the Scottish Government’s new guidance on 20 minute neighbourhoods help in the absence of clarity on linking placemaking goals with investment decisions, including for health, education, leisure services and other local services (Page 20)?

Edinburgh’s approach to neighbourhood planning has long been the envy of other cities but long term controversies about tram and railway development have stifled progress. Robert Drysdale suggests some practical steps are needed to build consensus (Pages 21-26).

Read STR65 here

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